The Camp Giving Young Amputees New Courage and Abilities

By Clare ChateWednesday 1 Feb 2017Hope Mornings

When a teenager has an amputation, life contains challenges that most other young people don’t experience.

There are physical limitations, as well as social difficulties, and self esteem issues that only another person with a similar disability really ‘gets’.

That’s why every year, Teen Ranch in Cobbitty hosts Amp Camp—an annual camp for teens  with an amputation or any other kind of  ‘limb difference’—missing fingers, or a loss of a foot, leg or arm, for example.

The annual weekend camp was started by Russell Hodge, who is an amputee himself since a motorbike accident that claimed his leg over 10 years ago. In a chat with Hope 103.2, Russell shared his inspiring story and explained how he was inspired to start Amp Camp.

“I was at Teen Ranch in 2010 as a camp speaker for one of their school holiday camps,” Russell said. “One of the other guys who was with me there, watched me as I was up on the high ropes, needing to be rescued because I’d fallen off the ropes and was dangling. After I got down, he said, ‘you should do something like this for teenagers who have had amputations’.”

The first camp was in 2011 and it’s been so successful that it’s now an annual event held every March.

Doing Everything that Able-Bodied Kids Do

A girl on a high ropes course at Amp Camp, Cobbitty

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Amp Camp gives young people a chance to try physical activities, without fear of embarrassment. These include high ropes, abseiling, horse riding, canoeing and more.

“We do all the activities that Teen Ranch have got on offer,” Russell said. “They get to do those activities with others who are in the similar situation to them. A lot of the kids actually say they go to camps with school but they hold back, because other kids just do activities so much easier, so they don’t have a go, they’re intimidated.”

The other benefit of the camp is the relationships that form.

“Young people get a sense of a peer group that is for them, and is championing them and is interested in them…an ongoing support network that they can call on all year,” he said.

“It’s about building a community, offering hope that you’re not journeying it alone. There’s lots of challenges that amputees face that people really don’t understand or know about. This gives them other people to talk to.”

Changing the Lives of Amputees

Young people at Amp Camp, Cobbitty

Making friends: Young people attending Amp Camp.

A prosthetist is on hand at every Amp Camp to help work with young people on their prosthetic limbs when necessary. Russell said this has led to significant breakthrough for some young people.

“We had one girl from Perth and she had lost both legs below the knee; she got hit by a train,” he recalled. “She came to Amp Camp and one of the leaders had the same amputation: two legs missing below the knee.

“She was just amazed…She could dance, she could run, she could jump, just by having different feet.”

“This girl was struggling with the feet she was wearing to walk. The prosthetist took the feet off the leader’s legs and put them on this young lady’s legs, and she was just amazed at the difference. She could dance, she could run, she could jump, just with having different feet.

“As a result of that moment people at Amp Camp got behind her and organised for her to be funded with much better feet than what she was wearing. So amp camp is an opportunity to try different things, and see what can be done.”

Reaching Out to Young Amputees Across Australia

Young people on a dress-up night at Amp Camp, Cobbitty

Party time: Young people on an Amp Camp dress-up night.

This year’s Amp Camp is on at Teen Ranch in Cobbitty from March 10 to 13, and Russell’s dream is that it will be accessible to every young Australian who has a need for the experience.

While camp organisers apply for grants, this year they need around $20,000 in donations by March to cover costs.

For more information or to help a young person make it to Amp Camp from interstate, head to the Amputees NSW website, or Amp Camp’s Facebook page.

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